Summer 2023 - PHIL 120W D100

Moral and Legal Problems (3)

Class Number: 4725

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    WMC 3520, Burnaby



A critical examination of a range of moral and legal issues we confront in our dealings with the state and our fellow human beings, such as: Is it wrong to break the law? Should pornography and recreational drugs be illegal? Do animals have rights? Is there a duty to admit immigrants? Are there duties to the world's poor? Are indigenous peoples owed reparations? Students with credit for PHIL 120 may not take this course for further credit. Writing/Breadth-Humanities.


In this course, we will critically examine moral and legal issues we confront in our dealings with the state and our fellow human beings. We will begin with an overview of virtue theory, Kantian ethics and classical utilitarian ethics. We will then look at contemporary issues including: what authority the state should have to redistribute wealth; whether or not the consumption of animal products is immoral and should be restricted or discouraged; the limits of freedom of speech; our obligations to immigrants and to provide charity to those in need; our obligations to respect gender and sexual diversity; systemic racism, reparations and affirmative action; and whether or not technological progress ought to be limited in order to preserve human employment and wellbeing.



PHIL 120W may be applied towards the Writing Requirement, and the Breadth-Humanities Requirement. The course is strongly recommended for students intending to pursue a Philosophy Major or Minor (especially with the Law and Philosophy concentration), or the Certificate in Ethics.

This course is designed to advance your perspective-taking, critical thinking, reading and writing skills. The philosophical issues we will explore are central to our dealings with the state and our fellow human beings, and reflecting on these questions contributes to living an examined life. You will also learn the fundamental principles of analytical writing, including argument reconstruction and analysis. These general skills are essential to philosophy, but are applicable to all fields of study.

This course is excellent preparation for law school, public policy degrees, business school, or for anyone intending to participate in public policy debates.

Videos: Why Study Philosophy? and Meet Our Professors!


  • Tutorial participation 5%
  • Tutorial quizzes and assignments 20%
  • First paper assignment 25%
  • Second paper assignment 25%
  • Final examination 25%


Participation will require active engagement in tutorial discussions. Students can ask questions or add their discussion thoughts verbally while tutorial is in session. Students will submit a written participation self-assessment to their teaching assistant at the end of term. In order to receive full marks, students must have added to tutorial discussions at least 5 times. Students can log 1 participation point per tutorial meeting


Written work for this course will be submitted via Turnitin, a third party service licensed for use by SFU. Turnitin is used for originality checking to help detect plagiarism. Students will be required to create an account with Turnitin, and to submit their work via that account, on the terms stipulated in the agreement between the student and Turnitin. This agreement includes the retention of your submitted work as part of the Turnitin database. Any student with a concern about using the Turnitin service may opt to use an anonymous identity in their interactions with Turnitin. Students who do not intend to use Turnitin in the standard manner must notify the instructor at least two weeks in advance of any submission deadline. In particular, it is the responsibility of any student using the anonymous option (i.e. false name and temporary e-mail address created for the purpose) to inform the instructor such that the instructor can match up the anonymous identity with the student.



Students must have access to the internet and a computer or other device that permits access to the course Canvas page and reading PDF files.


Weekly course readings will be available on Canvas.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Thinking of a Philosophy Major or Minor? The Concentration in Law and Philosophy? The Certificate in Ethics? The Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate?
Contact the PHIL Advisor at   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

New elective grade policy : P/CR/NC, pilot project in place from Spring 2021 to Summer 2023. List of exclusions for the new policy. Specifically for Philosophy: 

  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any requirement for a major, joint major, honours, or minor in Philosophy (with the exception of Honours tutorials).
  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any prerequisite requirement for any PHIL course.
  • Students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any requirement for the Ethics Certificate, or the Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate.
  • Philosophy Majors and Honours students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any WQB requirement.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university.